This activity develops two aspects of I do, I undo, I redo: ideas to do with towers and the hidden artworks inside, that are only discovered when you journey up and down the staircases.
Discuss the significance (shape, function, materials, qualities) of towers in sources both ancient and modern. These could be fairy tales (Rapunzel) or modern city skyscapes (the New York skyline, which Louise Bourgeois cites as an influence ). Investigate your local skyline - what is the tallest or shortest building?
Design an imaginary silhouette of a tower and cut it out on black sugar paper. Stick it on the outside of a container that you have painted a block colour (shoe box, snacks tube).
Write a poem using the word tower as the acrostic device and hide it inside the box. The poems could be very simple, based on a description of the towers:
Older pupils might write more sophisticated poems about what it may feel like to be at the top of one of the towers, seeing the world in a new way, reflected in the majestic mirrors: The
Bourgeoiss work plays with the scale and materials of objects, from giant sewing bobbins to steel spiders, in ways that ask us to think about the objects and their meanings. Her personal history is always resonant in the changes she makes to these objects. In the case of I do, I undo, I redo (the towers) and Maman (the giant spider with her sack of eggs) we might be led to ponder the meanings of friendship or other relationships, for example that of a mother and her offspring. What objects do we associate with these relationships? A friendship band or wedding ring? A nappy? A feeding bottle?
Get students to choose an object that is significant to their lives and make a version of it that plays with its scale andor material to create new meanings. For example, the nappy could be made from fired clay so it becomes heavy and unabsorbent and is rendered functionless, the wedding ring could be scaled down so it cannot be worn and becomes nothing more than a belonging.
Make a class display of the objects and ask students to write captions expressing how they think the meaning of the objects has changed.
Helen Charman is education officer at Tate Modern